This Saturday’s book event for Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl (Random House, $28) is sold out, and maybe you already have tickets. How and why has she seized the zeitgeist among her young peers? We asked women who write for Seattle Weekly, and their friends: What’s the deal with Lena? Here’s a sampler of their opinions.
People herald Dunham as the voice of a generation. Not mine. Twenty years back, I could’ve been her super-cool babysitter. Her book deal, with an advance of over $3 million, caused quite a kerfuffle when announced two years ago. Today, however, when Microsoft’s CEO tells women not to request raises, I applaud Dunham for recognizing her value. She’s monetized her self-obsession, so there’s that to commend.
In an era where reality TV shows and Internet sex tapes allow idiots to experience celebrity, I find it refreshing to see a brazen, beautiful woman with brains make headlines; moreover, Dunham is unabashedly authentic—which is what evokes the ire of others. The world needs more of her not so much because of what she says, but because she says it with such genuine candor. —Alyssa Dyksterhouse, SW contributor
When I first saw
Girls, I was dumbstruck because Dunham was showing the world MY New York. I never knew the cupcakes-and-Manolos, Sex and the City life. Like Hannah (Dunham’s character on Girls), I knew crappy jobs and weird men and having too much ambition to even breathe and no idea how to get what I wanted, let alone what I wanted. Lena figured it all out; and for that, I love her.
Of course I’m insanely jealous. I think the reason for all the hatred and envy from other women writers is because there are so few ways for women to be successful in the literary world. I think a lot of women perceive her as not just taking up “a” space but “their” space, and it hurts. I’m happy about her success, because if the culture makes room for a smart, young, outspoken proud feminist who values good storytelling, beautiful writing, and messy truths, it makes more room for the rest of us. —Arlaina Tibensky, author of And Then Things Fall Apart
Dunham’s honesty is contagious. Her candor challenges me. She presents her flaws to the public, which is what I appreciate most. Most everyone hides their insecurities and shameful secrets, whereas Dunham shares them. It’s inspiring. —Abby Searight, SW intern
Dunham pictured in HBO’s Girls. Jojo Whilden/HBO
I’m fairly neutral on Dunham. I will admit to moments of dislike, but surely those were based in deep-seated envy. Who wouldn’t be envious of such a lightning strike of talent? Separating her skill from her fabled upbringing is essential to understanding how good she is for feminism. I don’t think she’s the voice of young feminism, as there are many voices in that choir, but I do believe that she’s pushing the feminist envelope in a way that is much needed. The notion that a young woman wouldn’t identify as feminist is frightening to me. My mother’s native feminism—born out of the shifting roles of women in the ’50s and ’60s and the gravel road they all paved so we can stroll down it in our Manolos—carves deeply in me, and influences everything I write. How could it be possible that women wouldn’t want equality in all things?
The simple fact that Dunham is open about her earnings, and that she is paid as much as a man would be in her position, is a tremendous model for anyone to base their ambition upon—this is the kind of cult that women need to join in droves. I have not yet read her book, but I will. —Amy Scheibe, author of A Fireproof Home for the Bride
It’s safe to say I’m in the target demographic for Dunham (though maybe, in my mid-30s, on the elderly side): I’m a hyper-liberal East Coaster with a semi-oppressive family who grew up pudgy and nerdy and theatrical, then found my people and a series of hipster publishing jobs. I love sarcasm, outspoken ladies, and wordy neurotics. I even went to the slightly preppier version of Dunham’s college.
All of which makes me feel a little guilty for not really feeling her shtick. Possibly it’s too familiar or hits too close to home, but it just doesn’t seem like fodder for the countercultural feminist revolution she’s often credited with inspiring. We’ve had smart, sexual women making quirky, self-flagellating art for a while now, haven’t we? I’ve enjoyed listening to some interviews with Dunham—I admire her honesty, intelligence, and ability to act like a regular (read: overwhelmed) human while navigating celebrity.
But Girls annoys me, and all I can say about her book is that it’s exactly what I expected. Despite my bio, I guess I’m not Lena Dunham’s kind of girl. —Mia Lipman, Seattle editor and writer
She isn’t someone automatically liked, but I think that’s the thing about Lena. She isn’t instantly digestible. I’ve seen a few episodes of Girls, which I enjoyed. But I wasn’t blown away. I do respect her intellect and admire anyone who can become successful at such a young age. I think she’s a good role model for having opinions and not being afraid to say what she thinks and feels.
But I wonder. Does it have to be so black-and-white? Call me shallow, but I wince every time I see her come out in some godawful unflattering outfit at the latest awards show. Unfortunately, that’s what people comment on, myself included. Somehow I think as women, we’re supposed to think she’s deeper and stronger than us weaker women who care about style and fashion, for not caring about how she looks. But, hey, Lena is part of the Hollywood industry; she’s not curing cancer. So although I appreciate that she doesn’t care and wears what she wants, horizontal stripes and fluorescent yellow are really hard to pull off, even if you’re Heidi Klum.
This distracts me from fully appreciating Lena. I’d really love to make her over. There, I said it. But being a feminist can take all shapes and sizes. Lena is just one of them. —Leslie Whalley, Seattle freelance writer
University Temple UNITED METHODIST CHURCH 1415 N.E. 43rd St., 634-3400, bookstore.washington.edu. $28 (sold out). 7 p.m. Sat., Oct. 18.